There’s something about a farm that is just so calming and relaxing. I had the opportunity to spend a recent Saturday with a group of fellow City Mom bloggers on a farm tour. The sun was shining brightly in a clear, blue sky as a cool breeze flowed across the fields. It was a serene scene as our bus pulled in for our visit to Gould Farms in Maple Park, Illinois.
Our introduction to pork production came from Chris Gould, a member of the third generation of Goulds to work at the breeding and farrowing facility that houses about 750 sows. He explained the size of their operation, the gestational timeline from inseminating to weaning and what types of food products result from their efforts.
Having toured a large scale pig farm last year, I had a bit of an understanding of the process of the pigs being artificially inseminated, giving birth in gestational crates and being kept in an indoor facility. While there are critics of the method in favor of hogs living a free-range environment, the benefits and advantages of such an operation are clear. An indoor climate-controlled environment creates cleaner, safer, less-stressed animals, which, in turn, leads to a better product. Many of the piglets born at their farm become tenderloin and other choice cuts.
With my previous pig farm tour being a big operation, I was pleasantly surprised that this one, which Gould's father, Eldon, described as a "medium sized" pig farm is a family operation and one in which the Goulds take great pride in. Over 3,000 acres of the farm are also used for growing corn, balance soybeans and wheat, as well. A fourth generation of the Gould family is now working there and everyone has their niche (i.e. Gould's sister is a veterinarian who helps to provide care to the animals and his mother works in the office tracking each sow and piglet on paper.)
The family was so welcoming and accommodating, opening their home to us, serving up homemade goodies after lunch and even giving us a parting gift of hand made soap using goat's milk from a neighboring farm.
Although the day was all about pork and how it gets from a farm to our table - and everything in between - my biggest takeaway of the day was the notion that behind the food products we purchase in grocery stores, there are still family farms run by good people like the Goulds that are alive and well and thriving.
|Chris Gould gives an overview of the family hog farm.|
|Dressed in our bio-hazard coverings to prevent contamination, the City Moms head for the breeding and farrowing barns.|
|A peaceful view of the Gould home.|
|The City Moms prepare to head in to get a first-hand look at a modern pig farm.|
|We learned more about boar semen than we ever wanted to know.|
|The piglets grow quite quickly as they nurse for the first two to three weeks before weaning.|
|A breeding specialist from Gould Farms brought a couple piglets out for the City Moms to see up close.|
|Amy snuggled with one of the piglets for a picture.|
|As we got our tour we were able to witness some piglets being born.|
|The average size of a litter of piglets at the farm is 15.|
|After our tour was a catered lunch of - you guessed it - pork! as well as a few presentations, including one from the Country Store & Catering in Sycamore on covering different cuts of pork, cooking tips and cooking methods.|